8 December 2005 Edition

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Irish Ferries' crisis

A Chara,

We must look on the Irish Ferries' crisis in the wider context of the Irish labour market. Over the past ten years we can see that it is constructed on two pillars, light touch regulation and minimal enforcement capacity. An example of the thinking informing this policy, which is relevant to Irish Ferries, is the refusal of the Irish Government to support the draft EU Directive on Seafarers' Rights in 1999. Had that Directive been passed we would not have the problem we are trying to deal with now, and, of course, when the GAMA debacle emerged the regulatory regime was not capable of dealing with it.

The crisis on the Irish Sea can be seen as a potential pre-cursor of what will happen to the Irish labour market. A race to the bottom in employment conditions will almost certainly create social tensions and a misjudged antipathy to foreign workers. Out of that can come space for malevolent political forces. This has been the experience of some very stable European countries. All we have to do is look at the recent unrest in France or the racial tension in the UK. We would do well to learn from their experience and be sure not to emulate it.

The philosophy of trade unionism is that all people are born equal, are endowed with certain fundamental rights and their labour cannot be treated as a commodity in the market system. Our task now is to turn this philosophy into a practical reality.

Gareth Keogh,
Development Officer,
Union Services,
Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

A Chara,

The current Irish Ferries debacle has shown us definitively, if ever proof was needed, of the real nature of social partnership in this country. The appaling way in which Irish Ferries are exploiting their workers, both national and non-national should be a lesson for all. Irish employers use social partnership to exert their dominance on the Irish industrial scene, making moderate concessions, in order to buy the subservience of our more lily-livered unions. In spite of the clear pro-employer slant of social partnership, companies like Irish Ferries are quite happy to contravene Irish labour laws to serve their thirst for profit.

The rhetoric of social partnership belies the reality of industrial relations in this country. While the government is essentially biased in favour of employers, any partnership agreement will reflect that bias. We need to move beyond social partnership. What we need is industrial democracy. That is a principle inherent in the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme. People may have the right to vote every now and then, but until workers exert real influence in the field of industrial relations, we cannot be said to live in a real democracy. It is about time we put people first and confined social partnership to the dustbin of history.

Donal O' Driscoll,

County Cork.

US troops in Shannon

A Chara,

I am a retired American living in County Waterford. I need to respond to the issue of US troops in uniform at Shannon.

I flew through Shannon twice in 2003 and once in 2004. During these trips I saw many US soldiers in uniform in Shannon Airport.

The issue is not as Joe Murphy's letter (An Phoblacht 1 December) stated one of disrespect for American troops or for Americans. The issue is not fundraising activities in the US by Sinn Féin. The issue is the position of the Irish nation on neutrality and the right of the Irish nation to expect that other countries will honour that position.

The US Secretary of State can deny the fact that US troops are being transported through Shannon but, I submit, her statement bears no truth. I suspect Rice's denial is just another example of the arrogance of Dubya's administration and it's disregard for the rights of other nations.

I love my homeland. I don't respect it's current leadership.

Linda McComas,

Pennsylvania, USA.

Hypocrisy over 'On the runs'

A Chara,

In the British House of Commons, William McCrea recited a long list of atrocities he claimed were perpetrated by the IRA. Tears welled up in his eyes as he poured his heart out to fellow MPs But not a tear was shed by the outraged MP for the many forgotten victims of groups like the UDA, UVF, Red Hand Commando, LVF, RUC, B Specials and UDR.

Nor indeed did McCrea refer to the tattooed Defenders of the Union who screamed abuse at young mothers and their children as they nudged fearfully to Holy Cross School.

I was one of a group from Kilkenny who travelled to Ardoyne in the autumn of 2001 to observe this situation first hand. I personally witnessed scenes that called to mind the civil rights campaign of late 1950s America. With one major difference. A Irish nationalist equivalent of Rosa Parks would just not have been taken in for questioning by police and fingerprinted. A Northern Rosa would not have lived to receive high-profile awards and decorations. Loyalism doesn't work that way.

In the new Ireland McCrea and his like will be free to live and work as equals, but never again as the fascist overlords who trampled over those whose allegiance is to a united Ireland in which all men and women are equal.

John Fitzgerald,


Don't share platforms with Kissinger

A Chara,

Recently the McCartney sisters refused to take a platform with former British Prime Minister and war criminal Margaret Thatcher. During this same period our Chief Negotiator while in the US was at a meeting and was photographed with none other than the US war criminal Henry Kissinger. This man has been the chief architect of American foreign policy for the last 30 years.

Henry Kissinger was responsible for the over through the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile. He support the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and carried out secret and illegal mass bombing of Cambodia and Laos. In short this man is responsible for the murdering of tens of thousands of people

The photographs of a smiling Martin McGuinness standing behind Kissinger have seriously damaged Sinn Féin's credibility amongst the progressive left-wing movements of the world. There can be no hiding behind the 'principles and tactics' argument on this issue. Like the McCartney sisters, Martin should have refused to take the platform with a man with such a record as Henry Kissinger.

John O'Connor.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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